Have you checked the year on your smartwatch recently? It’s the year 2017 and while I see a lot of young people walking around with wearables, I don’t see many elderly with them. That represents an opportunity as the US population is aging and many more people will enter the elderly demographic in the next several years. Older people need wearables for different reasons than their younger compatriots. They’re looking for devices that can keep them safe and help monitor their health. They do have a few of the same concerns as everyone else, though, namely looks and convenience. There are several devices currently on the market that are great examples of what wearable technology for senior citizens should look like.
Targeting the Elderly
I think it’s a safe assumption that the majority of PCB and product designers are not senior citizens. Since we haven’t quite reached that level yet it can be a bit difficult to anticipate their needs and wants. Like most people, seniors are concerned about looks and convenience. They’re also interested in using wearables to track their health and stay safe.
My grandmother likes to look nice. Even after she developed Alzheimer’s disease, most days she still puts on her nice shirts and jewelry. Senior citizens want their wearables to look nice as well. Things like bulky pendants that hang out of shirts are not fashionable, nor are they convenient. User-friendly is a great feature for young people, but it’s not necessary. We can dive into menus and scroll through lists with ease. For someone with advanced arthritis, clicking little buttons on a tiny touchscreen isn’t so easy. When designing a device for senior citizens be sure to think about their physical impairments and make ease of use a high priority. You’ll also want to make it look good in order to tap into this huge market.
If only wearables looked this good.
As far as functionality goes seniors aren’t just thinking about counting steps. They’re interested in devices that can help them keep track of their health issues. More than 90% of seniors suffer from at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. It can be helpful to record things like sleeping habits, pulse, and stress levels in order to manage these illnesses. Along with ailments, falling is a huge concern for senior citizens. A broken hip can be a death sentence for an older person, so recording falls and preventing them, if possible, is a big deal. If you want your device to beat all the others in terms of functionality, you’ll have to be creative. Some of the examples show you what kinds of products that creativity results in.
Devices Doing It Right
My grandfather always liked to teach by example, so let’s look through a few devices that are heading in the right direction.
Wise Wear - This company is a little more concerned with aesthetics than they are with functionality, but they do both well. Wise Wear makes wearable tech that pushes the fashion envelope. Another plus is their long battery life which can last up to 6 days, which makes it much more convenient. However, they’re just meeting the status quo with features like step counting and burned calories.
ActiveProtective - This product is highly unfashionable, but deserves a mention for its creativity and contribution to safety. ActiveProtective is a belt that deploys airbags when it detects a fall. I presume it uses an accelerometer to detect falls. This is something that more smart watch type gadgets should look into. This might not look cool, but it’s creative and takes an active role in fall safety.
Lively - Greatcall’s Lively is a watch that does just that. It’s a fashion statement made for older people to help them keep track of their health. It has fall detection, a step counter, and an emergency button. One con is that is has a replaceable battery. In my experience it’s not easy to change a watch battery, especially if you have an illness that affects your hands.
Lechal - This company has taken a bottom up approach to wearables by designing smart insoles. These things track your activities, but that’s not what makes them great for the elderly. My grandmother goes on a walk along the same route every day, but has to have someone to guide her or she’d get lost. Lechal insoles use vibrations in the shoe to subtly guide the wearer in the direction they’re supposed to go. This could help someone who has a slight memory problem keep some independence. It’s creativity like this that will make a gizmo stand out.
So here we have Wise Wear and Lively that have both made more traditional wearables that are also fashionable. Then there’s ActiveProtective and Lechal, which may not be super hip, but get the job done in creative ways. What you need to do is combine fashion, function, and creativity to produce devices that can reach the untapped senior market.
Remember the physical difficulties that your users might experience.
Once you’ve got a great idea for a new wearable form factor you’ll need to design a PCB that can fit inside. Altium Designer is a great piece of PCB design software that can help you do just that. It has rigid-flex design integrated from the ground up, making it great for wearables.
Have more questions about wearable tech? Call an expert at Altium.
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